The Manhattan Project

In partnership with the National Museum of Nuclear Science & HistoryNational Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Colonel Paul Tibbets

Norris Jernigan's Interview

Alexandra Levy: I’m Alexandra Levy with the Atomic Heritage Foundation. I’m here on September 13, 2018 in Chantilly, Virginia with Norris Jernigan. My first question is for you to please say your name and to spell it.

Norris Jernigan: Okay. I’m Norris Jernigan. That's N-O-R-R-I-S. Jernigan is J-E-R-N-I-G-A-N. You would be surprised how some people pronounce it. It's comical.

Levy: Please tell us your place and date of birth.

Norris Jernigan

Norris Jernigan served in the 509th Composite Group at Wendover, UT, and Tinian Island during the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Jernigan describes being assigned to the Intelligence Office of the 393rd Bomb Squadron. As a clerk, he prepared information for briefing missions and typed subsequent reports. He recalls his surprise at being transferred to Wendover and learning that the 393rd had been selected to be part of a top-secret project.

Robert S. Norris's Interview (2018)

Robert S. Norris: Right. I’m Robert S. Norris, it’s N-o-r-r-i-s, is the last name. We’re here in Washington in Cindy’s office on February 28th, 2018, to talk about the French atomic program and weapons and so on.

Cindy Kelly: Great. First, I hope that maybe we could start with the whole Curie family’s series of discoveries about radioactivity, and the platform that the French atomic scientific research provided for this.

Nancy K. Nelson's Interview

Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly. I am in Riverside, California. It is Tuesday, February 21, 2017. I have with me Nancy Nelson. I’d like her to say her name and spell it.

Nancy Nelson: My name is Nancy Nelson, N-A-N-C-Y N-E-L-S-O-N.

Kelly: Tell me a little bit about yourself, so we can put this in context.

Nancy K. Nelson

Nancy K. Nelson is the widow of Richard H. Nelson, who was the VHF radio operator when on the Enola Gay on the Hiroshima atomic bombing mission. In this interview, Nelson discusses how she met her husband after the war. She describes his experience training to be radar operator and in the 509th Composite Group. She recalls how he and other members of the missions felt about the atomic bombings.

Russell E. Gackenbach's Interview

Alexandra Levy: We are here on December 27th, 2016, in Florida, with Russell Gackenbach. My first question for you is to please say your name and spell it.

Russell Gackenbach: My name is Russell E. Gackenbach. G-A-C-K-E-N-B-A-C-H.

Levy: Please tell us your place and date of birth.

Gackenbach: I was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, March 1923, on March 23.

Russell E. Gackenbach

Russell E. Gackenbach was a navigator in the 393rd Bombardment Squadron and 509th composite group. He flew on both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki missions. His crew flew aboard the Necessary Evil, which was the camera plane for the Hiroshima mission. Gackenbach photographed the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. His crew flew again during the Nagasaki mission as the weather reconnaissance plane for the city of Kokura. 

Joseph Papalia's Interview

Alexandra Levy: This is Alexandra Levy of the Atomic Heritage Foundation here in New Jersey on June 13, 2016, with Joseph Papalia. My first question is to please say your name and spell it.

Joseph Papalia: Joseph Papalia, P-A-P-A-L-I-A.

Levy: Can you tell us where and when you were born?

Papalia: I was born August 20, 1936, in East Meadow, New York.

Levy: Can you tell us briefly about your life and career, and how you became involved in the 509th Composite Group?

The Hiroshima Mission

Narrator: Apparently aloof from the rest of World War II, the solitary 509th, still unaware of its own purpose, carries on its puzzling training schedule. Their orders: practice runs to nearby islands. Then their own private missions to Japan, always above thirty thousand feet, always alone or in threes, always to drop just one bomb. Each time they must return to Tinian to face the ridicule of their fellow flyers. A poem is written in their dubious honor.

Pages

Subscribe to Colonel Paul Tibbets